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Ilardi earns Ripon salutatorian honors
salute ripon
Ripon High salutatorian Nico Ilardi shares graduation memories with, from left, Karina (mother), Gabbi (sister) and Rome (father).

Nico Ilardi had a senior year perhaps like no other.

He went from being on top of the world — as far as prep sports go — to one of uncertainty caused by a global pandemic.

Ilardi, who quarterbacked his small-school team to an unlikely state title, maintained his high academic standards while navigating classwork via distance learning, in turn, becoming Ripon High's salutatorian for the Class of 2020.

"We're thankful to RHS," said his father Rome, speaking on behalf of the family consisting of his wife, Karina, and daughter, Gabbi, an outstanding golfer as a freshman for the Indians. "We saw Nico develop physically in sports, socially and academically -- to do all that and still finish No. 2 academically in his class."

Nico Ilardi, who finished with a 4.31 GPA, was a standout in football, basketball and golf.

One of the toughest decisions for him at RHS was choosing between golf and baseball, yet another sport that he excelled playing, in the spring.

He and his Indian teammates were the overwhelming favorites this year in golf before the season came to a grinding halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But not all's lost. 

IIardi plans to continue playing golf at Arizona State University, where he was accepted on an academic scholarship. He'll be attending ASU's Barrett Honors College, majoring in Biomedical Engineering.

For now, Nico Ilardi has been spending more time with his familly, doing chores around the houses -- coupled with some nice home improvements -- and getting in rounds of golf at Spring Creek Country Club.

With it comes competition not to mention family bonding. The parents, Rome and Karina, have noticed that Nico and Gabbi have enjoyed their quality brother-sister moments during these unprecedented times.

Nico Ilardi had kept a frantic schedule since his freshman year, going between practices and games for football and basketball -- included were some premiere preseason hoop events such as the annual Modesto Christian tournament (RC took the consolation title during Ilardi's sophomore year) -- followed by golf and his involvement in the various clubs and activities at school.

Ilardi was in Leadership, California Scholarship Federation, United Club, and Chess Club.

Music is his other passion.

He's enjoyed his time playing saxophone for the RHS Band program and even learned to play guitar during home isolation.

For Ilardi, football season went longer than expected. He was finally the starting quarterback. Along the way, he sustained a knee injury (strained AC kept his sidelined for four games), was crowned homecoming king, and bounced back to help lead his team to a thrilling 31-28 victory over Highland for the CIF State Division 4-AA title behind Nathan Valdez's 36-yard field goal.

The Indians posted a 14-1 record with a roster that opened the season with 20 players.

Ilardi and his teammates were recognized by the community with a championship parade.

The celebration continues for Ilardi. This time it's in the academic arena, with graduation tentatively scheduled for July 31.